What I Learned When I Asked the Internet if I Should Make a Reddit Account

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Queermos, you might know I’m in an MFA program — as a result of all that good learning I’m getting as I become a Master of Fine Arts (in Fiction) I’m writing a novel that draws heavily from the events surrounding GamerGate. As such, I’ve spent a lot of time both experimenting with different ways to write about video games and staring at subreddits that barely think women are people. It’s all research and much of it is really kinda horrifying; for a really long time I resisted making a Reddit account because I was only looking up the internet’s asshole and I started to feel like Reddit’s proctologist — why on earth would I want to create an account to participate?

But I did see the merits in it — first, holding myself apart from the culture might mean I miss things. And since I’m writing fiction, I might be missing the things that can really add texture and truth to my work. I also didn’t particularly like clicking a bunch of bookmarks to get where I needed to go — y’all, I have cited a subreddit in a critical essay and it is not easy and I have not yet figured out how to do it properly. Most of my objections were ideological: I didn’t want to feel like I was participating in a culture that flings around all sorts of homophobic language all the time; I didn’t want to feel inundated by posts that make me unhappy; I didn’t want yet another account on the internet, etc. But on a whim I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers if I should get a Reddit account. I was not prepared, y’all. I was not prepared.

People voiced opinions as if they were vying for my soul in the battle of good and evil. I had no idea that people had so many feelings about Reddit. I got everything from “NOOOOooooooOOooooOOOOooooOOO WHY” (our own Anna Bongiovanni) to “Hard yes” (courtesy of Cee Webster, our website magician). One person even messaged me privately to tell me that Straddlers hate Reddit — is this true? Is this a thing? But it was this response from Taylor Hatmaker at the Daily Dot (and also of Autostraddle) that swayed me: “reddit is the bestworst, but it’s one of the foremost communities shaping internet culture either way.” Bingo. That’s it. I write about internet culture; I write about it here, I write about it in my fiction and essays for school and in general; I write about it in my journal. I am a tiny bit obsessed with internet culture. As of January of this year, Facebook has more active users than China has citizens — the internet shapes our world as if it is a separate country, unmoored from physical Geography and so far more elastic a country than we’ve ever seen before. It shapes our economy, it shapes our attitudes, it can help spark and organize a revolution. Digital space matters. And Taylor’s right — Reddit is one of the communities at the helm. I went from ambivalence to wondering why I didn’t have an account before this. Getting a Reddit account has allowed me to find the good stuff, not just the horrendous stuff I was actively seeking out.

Here’s what I’ve learned since.


There’s a Learning Curve

Just FYI, I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to really use Reddit. Even after a few weeks, I’m still not convinced I’m using it to its full potential. For a few days I didn’t even really know how to find subreddits and I was nervous to upvote or downvote things because I felt like I didn’t speak the language yet. Since I spend a lot of time figuring out how to use things so I can tell you how here, I’m going to blame this on it being the middle of the semester. If you too are considering making a Reddit account, go in knowing the flow is a little clunky and plan to be at sea for a bit. Speaking of that—


Bacon Reader v. Alien Blue

One concern brought up in the longass thread that was “should Ali get a Reddit account” was that Reddit’s design is really ugly and a little bit unfriendly in terms of user experience. I can’t argue there, but it’s certainly not the award winner for Absolute Worst Design (that’d be 4chan). One person mentioned that a way to get around this was to mostly use an app made for reading and posting on Reddit — Alien Blue was recommended, so I downloaded it to my iPhone. And y’all? I hated that worse. If I thought it took me a bit to learn the actual Reddit website, trying to ram Alien Blue’s nonsensical interface into my head over a day and a half was even harder. I still haven’t figured out how to upvote comments and posts on Alien Blue — and upvoting isn’t just a feature of Reddit, but a part of the whole “meritocracy” ethos where the cream is supposed to rise to the top (result: not a meritocracy, but that’s an argument for another day). I took to the appstore and found Bacon Reader. As a vegetarian, this is the only bacon I can get behind. I super prefer this app — interface elements are easy to find and interact with, plus it has a handy nighttime mode, which is especially good for me because I often find myself on Reddit if I can’t sleep at night. Which leads me to my next point:


I Find The Personal Finance Board Really Soothing

If you regularly read Queer Your Tech, you might have guessed that I, like many queers, have a fairly fraught relationship with money. Money is hard, and queers don’t talk about it enough. Often, thinking about money makes me sweat a little. But somehow, despite this, two subreddits in my “adulting” multireddit stand out as really soothing: r/personalfinance and r/ynab (which stands for You Need a Budget). I started using YNAB during research for Queer Your Tech (which is how I find most of the software I use, actually) and the subreddit is full of success stories and tips. Personal finance is full of advice on how to money. I think I find these two subreddits particularly soothing in the same way that I find the Studyblr tag on Tumblr soothing — things are orderly in a way my chaotic life only aspires to be, and where things are not orderly, people are striving to create order. It’s comforting to know that somewhere out there, other people long for stability and order the same way I do — and that they’re constantly balancing that with the chaos, same as me. Other subreddits on my “adulting” multireddit include r/legaladvice, r/freelance and r/frugal. Speaking of multireddits:


Multireddits Mean My Research Doesn’t Interfere With the Fun Stuff

If you don’t already have a Reddit account, you may not realize that you can organize the subreddits to which you subscribe into “multireddits,” or collections of subreddits that you think are related to each other. It makes Reddit feel less vast for sure—not as overwhelming if you’re just looking at your “gays” multireddit. Oh, what’s in my “gays” multi, you ask? It includes, among other things, r/actuallesbians (an inclusive community despite the name, because r/lesbians is not whatcha want) and r/lesbianfashionadvice (courtesy of Cee), among other things — what am I missing, Straddlers?

But most important for me, it’s helped to separate out the weird Men’s Rights Activist stuff I’m looking at when I’m researching and writing creative pieces. That way I can just engage with communities I actively enjoy during my fun-times, and do some of the harder work when I’m mentally prepped and ready for it.

Because honestly, contrary to what I believed while I was only hunting for the shitty bits of Reddit, it’s really not all like that.


Overall, Reddit is Kinda Hilarious

There are a bunch of different kinds of people who use Reddit; it’s not just the sorts who could be described with Chris Kluwe’s “paint-huffing shitgoblins” insult. Sure, they’re there. But we all know they’re on Facebook and Twitter too — sometimes they even surprise us by being on our newsfeeds, causing us to question our friending-choices. Their presence hasn’t stopped many of us from engaging in those social media communities, and it certainly hasn’t stopped me. So I suppose I was a little wrong to let it stop me from getting a Reddit account.

In most subreddits with reasonable humans participating, shitty comments get downvoted like crazy. I highly recommend looking at your “preferences” panel and considering just how shitty a comment has to be before you just don’t want to know it exists. The default is comments with a score of negative four — I leave mine blank because of my self-imposed role as the gal who’s giving Reddit a colonoscopy in the name of creative writing. That means I see everything.

Either way, most people on Reddit are kinda funny. r/NotTheOnion is devoted to news stories so ridiculous that you could swear they were satirical (tagline: Sadly, this is not The Onion)—in fact, on this board today I stumbled upon a Christian radio host who thinks that gay sex is responsible for the California drought. Another Redditor by the name of ButteryMancakes commented that “This is the only Republican that I’ve heard so far admit that climate change is a man made phenomenon.” I think that’s hilarious. Four for you, ButteryMancakes. Four for you.

Speaking of excellent subreddits—


There Is An Entire Subreddit Devoted to Chemical Reaction Gifs

It’s r/chemicalreactiongifs and you get exactly what it says on the box (no worries, it’s also physical-reaction-inclusive). Gifs. Of chemical reactions. Like this one or this one.

My new tactic for cheering people up: Oh, I’m sorry you are feeling like everyone in this graduate program is having more meaningful experiences than you. I am super sure things will get better. Here is a gif of aluminum melting because of something to do with induction heat and electromagnets that I don’t fully understand:

melting-electromagnet

ISN’T IT PRETTY?


And you know what makes all of this even better? On Thursday, Reddit adopted a new anti-harassment policy. According to Think Progress:

In a blog post Reddit CEO Ellen Pao co-wrote with other staff Thursday, the company announced it was moving away from its traditional laissez faire approach and instead is working on changes to better represent the company’s values for privacy, open expression and personal safety.

Under its new harassment policy, Reddit prohibits personal attacks and harassing behavior, defined as “systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone” that cause someone to believe their physical safety is at risk, or Reddit is not a welcoming platform to converse or express ideas. Reddit has also set up email accounts where users can report abuse.

And from that very blog post:

Last month, we conducted a survey of over 15,000 redditors—these are people who are part of the reddit community—that showed negative responses to comments have made people uncomfortable contributing or even recommending reddit to others. The number one reason redditors do not recommend the site—even though they use it themselves—is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content.

So if my experience so far hasn’t made you any more easy, know that under interim CEO Ellen Pao, Reddit is actually striving for values that aren’t quite as smarmy and terrible as Reddit has previously been. Thank you, Ellen Pao.

What am I missing on Reddit, Straddlers? Are there subreddits I absolutely must visit? Or do you have an opinion that’s different from mine? Please let me know in the comments below!


This has been the one-hundred-twenty-eighth installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to websites you have to bookmark to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.


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Profile gravatar of Ali

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

Ali has written 507 articles for us.

38 Comments

  1. While I agree you get some weird people on Reddit, I find that the forums can be quite fun and informative. While there also tend to be disagreements on various topics and sometimes in debates/arguments, people get very worked up, for most of the forums I lurk on, most of the folks there still seem quite reasonable?

    And… the latest cute slightly weird reddit forum I’ve discovered is Dinosaur Drawings!

  2. so..does this mean we’re taking over reddit now? LOL. JK. I’ve had my fair share of sites like reddit and 4chan and while they can be quite dirty and disrespectful, it’s still a great place that’s funny, informative and just plain fun.

    When people have asked me in the past whether they should get their own reddit account I was always torn between yes and no because of the rudeness but it’s great to hear that they have fun! =)

  3. I see your radio host who blamed gay sex for the californian drought and raise you a bishop! In the UK in 2007 the bishop of Carlisle, a bona fide bishop, publically blamed gay marriage for the country-wide floods that were happening at the time. No word of a lie. We were not impressed.

  4. 1. This is such a great article! I’ve avoided reddit for years and years mostly because it’s hideous (in many senses). I’m excited to hear that doesn’t have to be the case, and also to get a handle on my finances! This is great!

    2. IS THAT THING HOVERING?? SCIENCE IS ACTUAL MAGIC!!!!!

    • omg this is important. get a tube of aluminum foil (or a copper or aluminum pipe, but the foil works too and is easier to find) and a strong magnet (rare earth magnet preferred). drop the magnet through the tube. it will float down. it is magical.

      my friend who works at at a science museum showed it to me. he said the falling magnet induces an electromagnetic current in the tube, and the current pushes in the opposite direction as the falling magnet, slowing its descent.

      he demonstrated with a copper pipe and a magnet. we discovered it worked with aluminum foil because obviously the thing to do after seeing magic like that is to try it again with every household object you can think of.

  5. Also, while this may or may not be relevant to your interests, the trans community on reddit is really nice, very friendly and extremely accepting. /r/asktransgender is a great resource, and reading the stories of other trans people on there really helped me discover that just because I didn’t have follow the Standard Trans Narrative(tm) didn’t make me any less trans- and in fact, *most* trans people don’t follow the narrative. /r/transtimelines can be really inspiring -it’s amazing how much people can change, both physically and (even more so) emotionally as they transition.

    Also, /r/actualesbians is awesome and probably the most trans-friendly lesbian community I’ve found outside of Autostraddle.

    Lastly, you may enjoy /r/bestofoutrageculture, if you aren’t already familiar with it based on your research.

    • I found r/asktransgender to be kind of a mixed bag that drove me away from Reddit. For several weeks I tried to get on and help spread trans positivity and comfort struggling trans people. I totally participated in down voting transphobic comments, which did feel good.

      But it just got to me. I know being early in transition is a challenge, heck, being a year plus in is still really challenging. I had to quit checking that sub. There was just too much heartbreak for me to handle. I’ve never been good with message boards anyway, which is weird for someone who started internetting in the 90s.

      Actuallesbians sounds positive, though. I will have to take a look.

    • I love r/actuallesbians. I found Autostraddle through that subreddit, actually! And r/AL is what got me through early high school as a very confused unknowingly gay kid. It’s nearly always a positive and supportive community, and when it’s not, there are usually discussions about what happened and how to avoid it in the future. Basically, people act like mature and compassionate adults. I love it.

  6. I use reddit along with tumblr and both annoy me for different reasons, but I also check both virtually every day. I used tumblr exclusively for years but I reached a point where it was driving me up the wall and I basically heard reddit described as the polar opposite of tumblr.

    I have a queer multireddit and a writing multireddit but honestly I mostly just read /r/askreddit when it’s late at night and I can’t sleep.

    There are some terrifying places on it, and I once posted something in a subreddit for a particular country I was holidaying to asking if it had any kind of queer scene and the response was… not positive. I’ve used it less, since then.

    /r/actuallesbians is pretty great, in spite of the name (although there is some occasional biphobia) and so is /r/trollxchromosomes. The one thing almost the whole of reddit appears to hate is genderqueer identities, though. They seem to equate them with otherkin and deride the whole thing as 14 y/os on tumblr making things up.

    So, tread carefully, but reddit is definitely fun for good entertainment. I don’t find it as personable in the same way as tumblr, though. As a place to make friends or even get a feel of community, I wouldn’t recommend it at all.

  7. I’ve been on Reddit for a few years despite being a self professed internet nerd. I think I felt like it was petri dish for Programmers and SF Bros. I still don’t think I’ve mastered the subreddits and only just turned in my lurker card last week. I haven’t experienced any negativity on Reddit and I’m not looking for it. Ive seen a few subreddits that cater to haters and douche bags but I steer clear. IMO they have a right to theirs, I just won’t be reading all about it. I do love the AMA’s I mean where else can you get such direct access to such fascinating people? I also use the finance subreddits and a bunch of business related subreddits, again it’s direct and free access to people, peers and professionals that can give you answers and support in almost any subject. All my interactions on Reddit so far have been very supportive and helpful. I’m just bummed that I didn’t hop on the Reddit Bus sooner. But it’s not all business dont forget to check r/aww

  8. It doesn’t get a ton of traffic, but I enjoy /r/ladiesofscience (in addition to many of the subreddits already mentioned, and some local ones)

    /r/frugal is hilarious because I feel like their advice is always along the lines of “sell your house and car, buy a gym membership so you can shower, and only eat beans that you bought for ten cents because the can was dented”

  9. r/asktransgender and the fempire were the first places I felt at home way back before I came out of the closet as a queer trans woman. SRS gets a lot of shit, but the the discussion subreddit has definitely expanded my horizons and exposed me to a wide variety of views within the social justice community.

  10. I’ve been a Redditor for nearly 2 years now. The key is in how you use it. It is completely anonymous; in fact, the number one rule seems to be no doxxing, and that includes doxxing yourself. Of course, I know that nothing on the web is completely anonymous but reddit is about as close as I’ve gotten. It is very freeing, to be able to say things and not worry about how I word them, to have a social media account that isn’t attached to some other, less anonymous account like Facebook, twitter, autostraddle, or even my email.

    Reddit can be a very seedy place. There’s a lot of stuff on there that is beyond repehensible, even downright creepy and borderline illegal. Google Violentacrez sometimes to find out just how filthy Reddit can get. But, I personally stick to /r/actuallesbians,/r/nonmonogamy, /r/ainbow, /r/childfree, and a couple others. Overall, I love Reddit. But it isn’t for everyone.

  11. Reddit gets a bad rep, and for a while I avoided it because I’d got the impression from blogs and stuff that it was just full of MRAs. But honestly, it’s got everything and you can just stick around in the subreddits you feel comfortable with. It’s one of my most-visited sites these days.

  12. I’ve been on reddit for about 8 years and I for sure feel there are good and bad things about it. Over time the centers of shittyness shift from place to place, so the key is to keep moving away from wherever those people are going (/r/happy and /r/upliftingnews are probably not going bad any time soon). I am no longer susbscribed to anything that regularly hits the front page as a result of these shifts, but I still enjoy reddit for what it is.

    For your research you could try some subreddits that function as sort of bat signals of where the action is such as /r/bestofoutrageculture, /r/badwomensanatomy/, /r/muhfreedoms and /r/subredditdrama along with whatever else you like. That way you don’t have to wade through /r/theredpill every day… /r/negareddit/ and /r/hailcorporate/ are also enjoyable.

    Over the years what I’ve learned is that the best way to keep your feed free of idiocy/shittyness is to build multi-reddits out of smaller, way more specific subreddits almost regardless of topic. I’ve had good experiences with that, but I also miss out on big stuff occasionally. In that vein, I’ve found for LGBT-stuff that it is useful to multireddit that. /r/ainbow, /r/lgbt/, /r/gaygeek/, /r/gaymers, /r/transgender/ plus all that’s been mentioned are good places to start, I think.

    Best of luck on reddit!

  13. There are all kinds of subreddits out there. I stick to a few relating to – math, technical, free s/w, atheism, feminisms, lbt and of course my favorite is /r/actuallesbians.

    We have so much active learning in the good subreddits.

  14. Agreed. Reddit is a big place. You can avoid the cesspools by choosing your subreddits carefully. I’ve always preferred tumblr as my social-media-time-waster, but I’m getting nervous about its future thanks to Yahoo, so…

    Some fun reddits: /r/mildlyinteresting, /r/AerialPorn (not porn), /r/ChangeMyView (if you feel like debating, this reddit is pretty civil in that people are actually ASKING for a debate).

    For writers: /r/IAmAFiction/ lets you answer other redditors’ questions as an original character. /r/Worldbuilding is also fun.

  15. Some of my favorites are r/OldSchoolCool which is cool photos of people back when, and r/oddlysatisfying

    I also go to r/cooking a fair amount for advice on new recipes or meals to cook for friends and family and gotten some great info there.

    I think Reddit is all about looking in the right places. When you do you’ll find great little internet communities.

  16. Download Reddit Enhancement Suite. Makes the layout soooo much better.

    As for reddit, sometimes I get frustrated with the anti feminist comments and need to take a break. But I do like the style of most of the posters there. A lot of the other sites I frequent, the posters just get really worked up easily and don’t want to have discussions.

  17. My favorite thing about reddit is just the sheer scope of it. A while back I was wanting to talk to someone who works in a certain (pretty small) field. Google wasn’t providing me the answers I wanted and I couldn’t figure out any personal connection that I could use to find such an individual. Finally, I realized that I hadn’t yet tried reddit… Once I’d dug up the subreddit I needed, I almost instantly got the info I wanted from several different people.

    That said, I do avoid most of reddit as a whole. I think the specific subreddits can be really awesome, and I frequent a number of them, but the big ones (askreddit, IAMA, etc), can be terrifying. Even my city-specific subreddit is a little too much for me sometimes.

  18. I use reddit mostly to fill in the gaps left by my other go-to haunts on the internet (Autostraddle; Alas, A Blog; Whatever; and The A.V. Club; with a bit of Pajiba, The Pervocracy, and xoJane thrown in). As my interests change, the subreddits I’m subscribed to do as well, and I enjoy the convenience and flexibility it affords.

    Currently about 40% of my reddit time is spent on /r/comicbooks. I also subscribe to a couple other media related subreddits. If you’re a continuity fan and a Star Trek nerd I would be remiss not to recommend /r/DaystrumInstitute.

    In terms of social justice and “alternative lifestyle” stuff, I’m a fan of /r/actuallesbians, /r/bisexual, /r/polyamory, /r/nonmonogamy, /r/BDSMcommunity, and /r/mypartneristrans. I prefer /r/lgbt to /r/ainbow because at least when I joined three years ago /r/lgbt was more trans* inclusive. I used to hang out on /r/genderqueer and related subreddits quite a bit but then they mostly turned into people posting pictures of themselves asking the other subscribers to guess their age and gender, and I wasn’t into the unexamined support of the ‘passing paradigm’ or whatever so I bounced. I also used to hang out on /r/asexual and /r/asexuality a bunch, but then I stopped IDing as ace-spectrum, so they became less relevant to me. FYI demisexuality is not taken very seriously throughout most of reddit (the ace-related subs excluded of course; and there is an /r/demisexuality for those interested), so be prepared for that 🙁

    Some fun subreddits I like are: /r/perfectfit, /r/thingsforants (tiny things! Zoolander references!), /r/tipofmytongue (you get to be a detective and find media that people have forgotten the name of or never knew; it’s so satisfying when you’re able to help!), /r/cleanjokes and /r/dadjokes (avoid if you don’t like puns), /r/foundpaper, /r/ lacqueristas (nail polish!), /r/trollXchromosomes, and /r/namenerds.

    STAY AWAY from anything marked NSFL (not safe for life), and any subreddit that has a name in the form of /r/[noun]InAction. Also, in general, avoid any subreddit that you’re automatically subscribed to when you sign up (these are also the ones that show up when you browse the front page of reddit without logging in, and are called ‘default’ subreddits).

    Good luck and happy redditing, and if you have any questions feel free to ask!! <3 (via comment reply or private message)

  19. I’m mostly mehhhh about reddit. I do like a few of the queer subreddits I frequent because of community, and I also spend a LOT of time on r/whitewater because it’s part awesome photos/videos of boaters and part advice community on improving technique, planning trips, and gear reviews. I’ve had a couple IRL friends recognize my username on r/whitewater though, so if you’re gonna participate in small communities and you don’t want to be recognized, be a little careful.

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